Turkey should tone down against the West
Yes, it’s a fact that Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, will be the first European official to pay a visit to Ankara since the July 15 coup attempt when he comes on Aug. 3, nearly three weeks after Turkish democracy faced one of its severest attacks. (Except for the United Kingdom’s EU minister, Alan Duncan, who was in Ankara on July 20 and 21.)
It’s also true that statements coming from European capitals during and after the coup attempt failed to focus on the very core of the issue, namely, that a group of plotters with links to the Gülenist organization within the army tried to overthrow the government by terrorizing the country, bombing parliament and killing civilians.
There were some foreign ministers who warned Turkey that the coup attempt would not provide a “blank check” to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, issuing their statements just 24 hours after the incident and before the dust had even settled. There were others who condemned the incident but without showing any empathy, as if such coup attempts happened every day in this part of the world. It’s also true that Germany’s refusal to allow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to join a rally in Cologne via videoconference was absurd.
It’s also a fact that the Western media’s coverage was not objective at all and, worse, was not helpful in transmitting what has been happening in the country to their audience in the right way. It was this column in the very first week after the coup attempt that reflected this disappointment with calls to obtain a better outlook on the developments here.
However, all these will not justify increasingly hostile statements from the Turkish leadership against Turkey’s Western allies. Criticizing the lack of support or insufficient solidarity lent by European countries is one thing; identifying them as supporters of terrorism and coups is something else.
In a statement to international investors, Erdoğan accused the West of supporting terrorists and standing by the coup plotters, naming Germany, Belgium and France, three main countries of the European Union. Echoing Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and other senior Turkish leaders are also very outspoken when it comes to slam European countries on the similar points.
This harsh rhetoric against all of the West should not be thought of separately from Erdoğan’s upcoming visit to Russia next week. Again in his statement to investors, Erdoğan said Turkey and Russia were planning to announce a very substantial action plan to strengthen their bilateral economic and trade relationship to make them even better than before Nov. 24, 2015, the day Turkey shot down a Russian warplane. Although Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had said Turkey’s normalization with Russia does not represent an alternative to its ties with NATO and the EU, there are those in Ankara that consider it otherwise.
If Turkey is planning to use this strong-worded rhetoric to urge its Western partners that they might lose their strongest ally in this region, that would first hurt Turkish interests before those of its allies. It’s vital for Turkey to tone down its rhetoric against the West, find a balanced language and recall that its future is still in Europe.